Tuesday 11 March to Friday 14 March 2014



Raya Star 1.jpg


RIP Raya Star



Our Conor 1.jpg


RIP Our Conor



My Cheltenham Festival overview has taken ages to write ... but here goes:




Wilde Blue Yonder (Alan King/Choc) finished 5th in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (18 ran).

Valdez (Alan King/Choc) finished 5th in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1) (9 ran).

Choc didn’t ride Cantlow (Paul Webber/Choc) in the Handicap Chase (Grade 3) after all ... but, if he had, he probably wouldn’t have fallen like the conditional jockey did!

Grumeti (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) finished 8th in the Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) (9 ran).

L’Unique (Alan King/Choc) finished 3rd in the Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (16 ran).

Merlin’s Wish (Martin Keighley/Mr RP Quinlan) fell and Midnight Prayer (Alan King/Mr Joshua Newman) won the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase (for Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase) (15 ran).

Manyriverstocross (Alan King/Choc) finished 7th in the Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) (19 ran).




Race 1:

Vautour, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, was the runaway winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.  More  An excellent showing from Wilde Blue Yonder who completed in 5th; no last flight mishaps for him on this occasion.


Race 2:

Western Warhorse was the shock winner of the Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.   And even more surprising if you’d seen him misbehaving at Kempton Park on Boxing Day!  It was the owner’s idea to run the horse in this race, not the trainer!!!  More  A very creditable 5th for Valdez too.


Race 3:

Holywell won Handicap Chase, his second victory at the Festival; another Cheltenham victory for jockey Richie McLernon.  More


Race 4:

The JP McManus second-string Jezki won the Champion Hurdle, beating first-string My Tent Or Yours; The New One unlucky having been hampered when Our Conor fell.  More  Poor Our Conor sustained a back injury during the fall and was euthanised.  RIP  More


Race 5:

The Queen of Cheltenham, Quevega, won the Mares’ Hurdle ... for the sixth time.  More  After disappointing runs earlier in the season, Grade 1 winner L’Unique regained her form to finish 3rd, the best of the British contenders.


Race 6:

As mentioned above, the Alan King-trained Midnight Prayer won the 4-mile Novices’ Chase for amateur riders and gave a first Cheltenham victory to the yard’s amateur jockey Joshua Newman.  More


Race 7:

Present View, who won convincingly at Kempton Park last month, took the honours in the Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase.  Although he had to survive a stewards’ enquiry regarding possible interference to previous Cheltenham winner Attaglance on the run-in; the latter’s jockey Brian Hughes receiving much flack as a result, having tried to squeeze up the inside of the winner.  More




Creepy (Martin Keighley/Ian Popham) finished 14th in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (15 ran).

Smad Place (Alan King/Choc) finished 2nd and Annacotty (Martin Keighley/Ian Popham) finished 8th in the RSA Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (15 ran).

Vendor (Alan King/Jack Doyle) finished 10th and Meister Eckhart (Alan King/Choc) finished 13th in the Coral Cup (28 ran).

Any Currency (Martin Keighley/Ian Popham) finished a short-head 2nd to Cheltenham specialist Balthazar King in the Cross Country Chase (16 ran).

Coyaba (Martin Keighley/Ian Popham) finished 16th in the Champion Bumper (22 ran).




Race 1:

It was another first race of the day win for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, this time in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with Faugheen. More


Race 2:

An upsetting neck defeat for Choc and Smad Place in the Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase ... O’Faolains Boy, trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by Barry Geraghty, taking the honours.  Not surprisingly my favourite jockey was gutted.  More


Race 3:

Having narrowly missed out in yesterday’s Handicap Chase aboard Ma Filleule (My Goddaughter), conditional jockey Nico de Boinville went one better and claimed his first Cheltenham victory aboard Whisper; it was also owner Dai Walters’ first Cheltenham Festival triumph.  More  After last year’s one two with Medinas and Meister Eckhart, disappointment for the Alan King runners, with both Vendor and Meister Eckhart finishing in mid-field.  


A link to a photograph of Meister Eckhart on the horse-walk taken by Molly Wilson:


Former Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Dunguib was retired following the Coral Cup having finished lame.  More


Race 4:

But there was a very welcome victory for the Gary Moore team in the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Sire De Grugy ... it is fabulous when one of the ‘lesser’ stables takes a big prize and this horse is a real star.  More  Second favourite Captain Conan was pulled up at the halfway point and later it was discovered had sustained a non-displaced fractured pelvis; a month’s box-rest has been prescribed. 


Race 5:

Another heartbreaking loss, this time for the Martin Keighley-trained Any Currency (aka Woody) who went down by a short-head in the Cross Country Chase ... he would have won in a few more strides; Martin was seen throwing his race-card across the Parade Ring in frustration – I don’t blame him in the slightest.   More


Race 6:

The Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle went to Hawk High, trained by Tim Easterby and ridden by Brian Hughes; a second jockey seeking to ride their first Festival winner after an earlier narrow defeat.   More   


But misfortune for Bryan Cooper, who broke a leg when Clarcam fell two out.  Also the sad loss of Akdam, who won the first juvenile hurdle race of the season and was brought down when Clarcam fell – I think he broke a foreleg as he did get up and attempt to canter away but only got as far as the home turn before being caught and the green screens erected.  RIP  More


Race 7:

The first six horses home in the bumper were Irish trained runners ... no change there then; it was won by the Dermot Weld trained, amateur jockey Robbie McNamara ridden, Silver Concorde – surprisingly the jockey’s first Cheltenham winner.  More  Unfortunately Irish representative Stack The Deck lost his action and his life having sustained a serious injury when pulled up during the race.  RIP


Further news arrived regarding jockey Jason Maguire who had been injured at Stratford on Monday.  More




Uxizandre (Alan King/Choc) finished ¾ of a length 2nd in the JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (12 ran).

Medermit (Alan King/Choc) finished 8th in the Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) (11 ran).

Medinas (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) finished 7th in the World Hurdle (Grade 1) (10 ran).

Champion Court (Martin Keighley/Ryan Hatch) finished 7th and Bless The Wings (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) finished 15th, despite first-time blinkers, in the Bryne Group Plate Handicap Chase (23 ran).




Race 1:

Choc was beaten by AP McCoy aboard Taquin Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase – JP McManus agreeing that his retained jockey could ride the Jonjo O’Neill representative.  Oh dear, another big disappointment for Choc.  Personally, though, I think Choc gave Uxizandre a better ride than AP has on his previous novice chase outings since being purchased by JP McManus!  More


A twitter photo courtesy of Channel 4 - the close finish to the JLT:


Race 2:

The Philip Hobbs-trained, Richard Johnson-ridden, Fingal Bay gets the nose verdict in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final; but Daryl Jacob is distraught having missed out aboard Southfield Theatre.  Two very close victories this week for Dickie Johnson. More


Race 3:

With his problems behind him, Dynaste finally comes good to win the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase; Medermit finishes in 8th.  More


Race 4:

The new kid on the block is More Of That, who fights off the challenge of Irish super-mare Annie Power to win the World Hurdle; it’s the third winner of the week for the Jonjo O’Neill yard.  More


With a gallant effort from Big Buck’s to finish 5th having missed last season due to injury, his retirement is announced; the horse is paraded around the Paddock to much deserved applause.  More


Race 5:

David Pipe strikes again with another big handicap win, this time Ballynagour romping to victory in the Byrne Plate.  Third winner of the week for the yard and for jockey Tom Scudamore – that’s now 5 Festival winners for the jockey.  More


Race 6:

The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Handicap Chase for amateur riders goes to Irish representative Spring Heeled, trained by Jim Culloty and ridden by Robbie McNamara; it’s just like buses ... you wait ages for one victory and two come along at once for the amateur jockey after yesterday’s win in the Champion Bumper.  More


St Patrick’s Thursday Charity Race in aid of Cancer Research UK:

The race was won by International Showjumper Vicky Laing aboard the Ian Williams-trained Gifted Leader; she slipped the field as the runners headed down the back straight and her rivals were unable to catch her.


Channel 4, BBC and Racing UK broadcaster Rishi Persad stayed aboard his mount Twelve Strings until after he pulled up despite the saddle slipping and losing his stirrups in the home straight. I couldn’t resist calling out ‘Well sat Rishi to him as he walked back down the horse-walk sans horse. 


Today there was an update regarding Bryan Cooper’s injury.  More




Montbazon finished 3rd in the County Hurdle (28 ran).

Divine Intavention was severely hampered by a faller and unseated his jockey in the Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (24 ran).

Raya Star fell at the 5th fence in the Grand Annual and Johnny Henderson and very sadly was a fatality having sustained a back injury (23 ran).  Choc received treatment for an injured knee. 




Having decided that I’d miss nothing of particular interest if I went to the course-side rails to select my afternoon pitch prior to Martin Kelly’s Preview of the Day taking place in the Winners’ Enclosure at 12:15, I hadn’t reckoned on the Guinness sponsored Great Britain versus Irish Prestbury Cup being awarded at this point in the proceedings.  The home team had built up an unassailable lead of 14 to 6 by the end of the third day, with Choc and a group of colleagues appearing on the podium to accept this year’s trophy.  My best photo opportunity had been missed, as I hadn’t time to head back before Choc had returned to the Weighing Room.  Poodles, poodles, poodles.


Race 1:

The Triumph Hurdle was won by one of the Irish raiders, Tiger Roll, trained by Gordon Elliot and ridden by Davy Russell.  More   But there was bad news for Ruby Walsh, who fell at the second flight aboard Abbyssial when at the head of affairs; he sustained a broken right arm having brought down stable companion Adriana Des Mottes and then kicked by many of the field too.  More  Also one of Daryl Jacob’s stirrup leathers broke and he lost his irons approaching two out aboard the favourite Calipto, but still managed to finish 4th.  


Race 2:

The County Hurdle went to the Paul Nicholls-trained Lac Fontana, his first (and only) victory of the week.  Jockey Daryl Jacob ecstatic, having won after yesterday’s reversal aboard Southfield Theatre.  He fought off the challenges of Irish raider Arctic Fire (David Casey replacing the injured Ruby Walsh) and the Alan King representative Montbazon.  More  


Having counted the number of strokes Choc administered when I was watching the replay on the big screen at Cheltenham, I thought I’d check the Stewards Room notes for the race ... whoops!  However, if you check all the enquiries, a number of jockeys were given suspensions of this nature over the course of the four days and, at a high profile event, it is bound to happen when there is so much at stake.  


They further enquired into the use of the whip by Robert Thornton, the rider of MONTBAZON (FR), placed third, from the second last flight. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended Thornton for 4 days as follows: Friday 28, Sunday 29, Monday 30 and Tuesday 31 March 2014.


Note to self:  Does that mean a possible visit to Ascot is crossed out of my diary?  I know that days can be commuted here and there in order to ride in a valuable or important race, but these days of the week and dates don’t even tally!!!  Who typed those stewards notes?  Tuesday is 01 April, April Fool’s Day ... that says it all!


Race 3:

Demonstrating the massive highs and lows of horseracing, jockey Daryl Jacob was injured in a freak accident ahead of the next race when he was heading to the start aboard one of the Paul Nicholls runners, Port Melon; the horse escaped injury.   More  


A second victory of the day for the Irish, with Paul Carberry riding the Noel Meade-trained Very Wood to win the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.  More


Race 4:

And a third victory of the day for the Irish, with a one two in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Lord Windermere trained by Jim Culloty and ridden by Davy Russell; On His Own finished 2nd with The Giant Bolster placed again in 3rd.  More  


Having sustained a third tendon injury when unseating during the race, Irish runner Last Instalment was retired; thus following Dunguib, also from the Philip Fenton yard, into retirement. 


Race 5:

And the Irish also won the Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup with Tammys Hill ... although an interpreter was required to understand what the Northern Irish amateur jockey JJ Smyth was saying when interviewed after the race!  More


Race 6:

By the time the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle arrived, it was becoming an Irish rout, with Don Poli taking the honours for jockey MP Fogarty and trainer Willie Mullins.  That sealed it for the Top Trainers’ prize; Willie Mullins took this year’s honours, as he had done last year too.  More  The top jockey award went to Ruby Walsh ... just for a change!


Race 7:

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup was the usual crazy dash to win the final race of the Festival, with the sixth victory of the day for the Irish in the shape of Savello ridden by, you’ve guessed it, Davy Russell.  That made it four victories on the day for owner Michael O’Leary and the third of the day for jockey Davy Russell; the latter including the Gold Cup itself.  More


There was a funny incident ahead of this race, when Oscar Hill ridden by Tom O’Brien failed to stop having cantered down to the two mile start.  He headed up the mid-course chute, jumping a flight of hurdles in reverse too.  Tom steered him into the infield and he must have done three or four circuits thereof before he’d run out of gas and Tom was able to pull him up.  The remark from the commentator was ‘they are obviously running the horse over the wrong trip’!  


However, the race was totally marred by the death of Raya Star, who fell at the fifth fence; he sustained a back injury as a result.  Choc hurt his knee and received ice treatment following the race.


And a final word for all those injured jockeys – Daryl Jacob, Ruby Walsh, Bryan Cooper, Josh Hamer who broke a collarbone when brought down aboard Akdam, Mark Walsh who was taken to hospital for tests after a fall in the Grand Annual, Paul Townend who stood himself down after the second race having hurt his shoulder when brought down during the Triumph hurdle and, of course, Jason Maguire who was injured last Monday at Stratford and didn’t even make it to the Festival, plus Ciaran Mckee who was knocked out as a result of a fall on Monday too.  I wish them all a very speedy recovery. 


It’s worth checking out Gavin James’ website for photographs from the Festival, also the Racing Post website too.  I’m still searching for a professional photograph of the Prestbury Cup presentation ... if anyone knows where I might find one?


I’ve just noticed a message on the Cheltenham website stating that tickets for the 2015 Festival go on sale ... this coming Monday 17 March 2014 ... allow some of us the opportunity to save up the money why don’t you!!!   I know the Jockey Club want finance for their Cheltenham redevelopment plans but this is getting just plain ridiculous!


Arriving home at 21:45 on Friday I actually ended the Festival feeling less tired than usual ... but my abiding memory from my car journeys was morning fog on Thursday and Friday!!!  Plus a car which had ended up on top of the roundabout at the Aylesbury end of the A41 bypass, one of those about a metre high with bricks around the edge – the perils of travelling too fast on a road you don’t know I guess – although there was a roundabout sign, ‘countdown’ signs and yellow hatching across the road which can be heard under the car tyres too - to warn drivers of their approach to the obstacle.  Then on Friday an articulated lorry had attempted to demolish the trees in the middle of the Ambrosden roundabout on the Bicester bypass (the local newspaper reported that no-one was hurt in this incident) – it’s amazing how many people ignore the prevailing weather conditions when driving. 


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